Blunkett 'was victim of phone-hacking' when in office

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Indy Politics

David Blunkett, the former home secretary, believes his mobile phone was illegally hacked by journalists while he was in charge of police, prisons and anti-terrorism at one of the most sensitive government departments.

The suggestion that a serving cabinet minister – whose responsibilities included the oversight of MI5 and sensitive operations against Islamic terror groups – was having his voicemails intercepted is one of the most alarming yet in the scandal over the tactics of some sections of the British press.

Five former Labour cabinet ministers have come forward with concerns that newspaper reporters eavesdropped on their messages while they were in office in order to find information about the politicians' private lives.

A fortnight ago, the former prime minister, Gordon Brown, became the most high-profile figure to ask police to investigate whether he was a victim of phone hacking, joining the former deputy prime minister, John Prescott, the former s ecretary of state for culture, Tessa Jowell, and the former chief whip, Nick Brown.

Mr Blunkett is understood to have raised suspicions with police late in 2004 that his phone was being hacked at a time when he was battling to save his political career after newspaper revelations about a love affair. Media coverage of his three-year relationship with Kimberly Quinn, then the publisher of The Spectator, and vigorously denied accusations that he had fast-tracked a visa for her nanny, led to his resignation from the Home Office.

Mr Blunkett, a Sheffield MP for 23 years, is understood to have decided not to take legal action over the alleged hacking. His office said yesterday that he had no comment.

The Metropolitan Police have vowed to leave "no stone unturned" in its new investigation of the case. A Scotland Yard spokesman declined to comment on whether officers would re-examine Mr Blunkett's concerns.

A former Labour minister called on David Cameron last night to ensure that ministers' communications are never eavesdropped again. Tom Watson, the MP for West Bromwich East, said: "The PM has the authority to get to the facts and the power to ensure that measures are taken to stop a scandal like this happening again."

During the prosecution of Glenn Mulcaire – who was paid by the News of the World, and subsequently jailed, for listening to the messages of aides to Prince William – it emerged that senior politicians were among the public figures who may have been of interest to the private eye. Police seized thousands of pages of records from Mulcaire's home in which he detailed the mobile-phone information of "targets", including their voicemail access numbers and PIN codes.

The disclosure in August 2004 of Mr Blunkett's relationship with Mrs Quinn – which had begun in 2001 and, according to friends, had developed to the point that the minister believed she was going to leave her husband – created a media storm as rival newspapers scrambled to uncover details of the couple's doomed affair and evidence to back up claims that he had misused his position.

When he stepped down from Tony Blair's government in December that year, Mr Blunkett described the personal toll the furore had taken, saying he had been "terribly hurt" by the exposure of his relationship with his American-born lover. His friends said Mr Blunkett was "heartbroken".

The News of the World broke the story under the front-page headline "His love for mum-of-one", but did not disclose Mrs Quinn's name. Within 24 hours, its News International stablemate The Sun had filled in the missing part of the puzzle. The tabloid recounted how Mrs Quinn had broken the ice at her first meeting with Mr Blunkett by describing herself as "tall and blonde".

The editor of The Sun at the time, Rebekah Wade – now Brooks – is currently the chief executive of News International and a personal friend of Mr Blunkett. The pair dined together on the evening after Mr Blunkett resigned from the Cabinet for the second time, in 2005, following claims about his ties to a bio-science company. After his second resignation, Mr Blunkett became a columnist for The Sun.

Mrs Quinn's adulterous relationship was of interest not just to News International titles and its disclosure led to a flurry of newspaper activity after it emerged that she was pregnant with her second child and allegations surfaced about the immigration status of her Filipina nanny, Leoncia Casalme.

An inquiry by Sir Alan Budd into whether Mr Blunkett had misused his position to "fast-track" a visa application for Ms Casalme found that there was a "chain of events" linking him to the decision to grant the nanny indefinite leave to remain in the UK – some 120 days faster than the average. But Sir Alan concluded there was no evidence that Mr Blunkett had sought "special help" for Ms Casalme.

The addition of Mr Blunkett's name to the list of suspected hacking victims comes shortly after the disclosure of a new body of evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee alleging that former News of the World editor Andy Coulson was aware of the practice. A Channel 4 Dispatches documentary to be screened tonight will claim reporters recorded their conversations with editors as part of a culture of "paranoia".

Labour politicians who have expressed fears

Chris Bryant

Labour MP and former minister of state for Europe

Believes he was a hacking victim. Said it was "inconceivable" Mr Coulson could not have known phones were being hacked when he was editor.

Lord Prescott

Former deputy prime minister

Claims police failed to carry out an effective investigation and would not supply him with all information concerning him found in jailed private investigator Glenn Mulcaire's office. Lord Prescott says police found a piece of paper with his name on it at Mulcaire's office, beside "two self-billing tax invoices for £250 each from News International Supply Company".

Tessa Jowell

Labour MP and former Olympics minister

Her mobile phone company informed her someone had tried to access her voicemail last month. She has reported it to the police.

Gordon Brown

Former prime minister

Has asked police to investigate if his phone was hacked while he was prime minister.